“Go out with me.”
Jaemin doesn’t look up from where he’s currently trying to seduce a blue spotted deer. He didn’t play Animal Crossing for eight hours straight just to have his favorite villager move out on him now - dammit. “Sure. Where’re we going?”
There’s silence for a few seconds which finally makes Jaemin look up, but Jeno isn’t looking at him. He’s staring at the ground, cheeks flushed.
Jaemin frowns, brows furrowing. “You okay?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Jeno clears his throat. “I was thinking we could go for a bike ride by the river?”
Jaemin purses his lips in thought, before shrugging and putting his Switch down. “Alright, I should probably take a break anyway. I think I’ve forgotten what real trees look like.”
“Okay,” Jeno says, shooting Jaemin a shy little smile, and moves aside for Jaemin to get ready.
They ride to the Han river, stopping on the side just in time to witness the last rays of sunset. Jaemin whips out his phone, wishing he’d brought his Nikon, and snaps a few pictures of the breathtaking orange and pink streaks across the sky.
He should take some pictures for their Dreamstagram, he thinks, switching to the front camera and leaning into Jeno’s side.
“It’s for the account,” he explains, and Jeno puts on his “pretty face,” raising his hand up for a peace sign.
After several selfies in quick succession, Jaemin moves to drop his arm back down but feels a sudden peck on his cheek, as soft and quick as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings.
Jaemin startles, but Jeno has already moved away. He stares after him, stunned, before looking down to check the pictures, seeing that the last one is blurry. There’s plenty of good ones to post, however, with them doing their best to smize at the camera.
He scrolls back to the last picture, biting his lip. His own face is clear but there’s a blurry form next to his left cheek, and he can just make out a stroke of pink, vivid against the rays of the setting sun in the background.
Jaemin stares at the picture for another second, before saving it to his favorites folder. He then taps into his messaging app to forward the rest to their social media manager.
Their dorm is particularly noisy today, all because Donghyuck decided to drop in for a surprise visit. He’s currently sprawled out on their couch in the living room, hollering at the TV at the top of his lungs as he races Chenle and Jisung in Mario Kart ( it’s not a race, it’s an ass whooping! )
Jaemin sits at his computer, editing pictures from their Dream trip and trying to drown out the noise with lo-fi beats. Trying to drown out Donghyuck is like trying to cover up a tornado siren, however, his high and melodic (and LOUD) voice stubbornly filtering under Jaemin’s closed door even after he tries stuffing a shirt into the crack under it.
“Hyunggg” he whines, finally calling in the heavy artillery. “Come get your man!”
There’s a sigh from the other end of the line. “He’s not my man, and he doesn’t listen to me anyways. Besides, I’ve got a schedule until ten tonight, remember?”
“So? Have him join you. He’s being so loud hyung, might as well put him in front of an audience.”
“He has an audience - you. But forreal he hasn’t had a break in a while, so I’d rather he rest at home even if that word means completely different things to him than to us” Mark says, chuckling fondly.
“But he’s with the kids and you know how it is when they’re together!” Jaemin whines.
“Go distract them then. Or better yet, get Jeno to do it. Hyuck’s always a lot calmer when he’s with Jeno.”
Jaemin pauses. This is true; Chenle and Jisung’s chaotic energy fuels Donghyuck to deafening decibels and Renjun will only pick fights with him for fun, but something about Jeno’s naturally shy and introverted personality always seems to soften Donghyuck a little, making him a bit more introspective and, more importantly, stationary.
It’s worth a try. He thanks Mark quickly before hanging up the call and texts Jeno.
Nana: plz do smn about hyuck
Jenojam: what do you mean
Nana: can u go distract him or smn
Jenojam: why would I do that
Nana: bc im trying to work and literally cnt concentrate w the daycare outside
Nana: plzzz if u lv me
Jenojam: alright fine
Jenojam: but you owe me
Nana: yeah of crs anything (●´ω｀●)
He hears a door opening in the next room, soft steps fading down the hall. There’s a loud greeting, then murmuring, then some shuffling around and several pairs of footsteps squeaking on linoleum before the sound of a door clicks open and closed.
Jaemin sits in silence for several seconds, then gets up and opens his door to poke his head out.
The living room is empty, devoid of all life with game controllers and empty snack wrappers haphazardly thrown all over the couch and floor. Jeno must’ve convinced everyone to go out somewhere - knowing them, it must’ve been with the offer of food which none of them can ever turn down.
Jaemin smiles, throwing a quick prayer of thanks to Jeno for being a literal saint before closing his door again and retreating back to his desk to resume his edits, working quietly.
He leans back in his chair two hours later, stretching his back with a loud but satisfying crack! , finally finished, and hears the telltale sound of the front door opening. Laughter fills the dorm and Jaemin sighs, getting ready to go out and join them when there’s a knock on his door.
“Come in,” he says, and it swings open to reveal Jeno, sporting his trademark black snapback.
He regards Jaemin curiously. “Did you finish?”
“Yeah, I did. Thanks for taking the kids out - what would I ever do without youuu” Jaemin simpers, blowing an exaggerated kiss in Jeno’s direction.
Jeno rolls his eyes but smiles, eyes crinkling into moons. “You can’t just flatter me to get free babysitting. I’m glad you finished though, means I can cash in that favor now.”
Jaemin raises an eyebrow, surprised. “So soon?”
“Yeah, you always owe me for something anyways, no need to hoard it.”
“I will neither confirm nor deny that. But okay, what can this lowly debtor do for you today?”
“Go to dinner with me.”
Jaemin’s other eyebrow shoots up. “That’s what you’re using it for? We eat together all the time.”
Jeno ducks his head, suddenly shy. “I know, but there’s this new place I found which looks really nice, and I want to try it with you.”
“Didn’t you just come back? I thought you took the kids out to eat.”
Jeno laughs. “Nah, I took them out to shoot some hoops. They’re all passed out on the couch now.”
Jaemin pauses, listening. It’s true that their dorm is suspiciously quiet, and he wonders how hard they must’ve played for even Donghyuck to have gotten so tired. He regards Jeno, who aside from being a little sweaty at the bottom of his neck, doesn’t look any worse for wear. His eyes are bright, waiting for Jaemin’s answer.
Jaemin gets up. “Okay,” he says, “let’s go then. I’m starving anyways and I deserve a treat for a job well done.”
“More like I deserve the treat for a job well done,” Jeno mutters, leaving to retrieve their bikes from his room.
They bike to the restaurant that Jeno wanted to try, which ends up being a mobile ramen stand outside a convenience store. Jaemin shoots Jeno a doubtful expression when they roll up, but Jeno merely beams back at him as they get off their bikes. They place their orders with a wizened old man who whips up two huge, steaming bowls, which they cradle like precious babies and settle gently on one of the cheap plastic tables set up near the stand.
The next thirty minutes are spent devouring the (admittedly mind-blowingly delicious) bowls of ramen, slurping ravenously under the setting sun. It takes a while for them to finish, and by the time they’re done Jaemin is leaning back as far as he can in his cheap plastic chair, cradling his belly.
“Ugh, I’m so full I can’t even stand. How am I supposed to bike all the way back?”
Jeno is trying to get as horizontal as he can in his own chair, eyes scrunched into moons again. “Don’t worry, I can always take you back on mine and come back for your bike later.”
Jaemin groans, pointing an accusing finger. “See? This is why I’m always owing you - because you are too nice and take too good care of me.”
He closes his eyes and starts to zone out, food coma hitting hard and fast, but not before he catches the breathy response to his words.
“I’ll always take care of you, baby.”
“Hyung, what does it mean if someone calls you baby?”
“What. Does. It. Mean. If. Someone. Calls. You. Baby?” Jaemin reiterates slowly, uncharacteristically somber.
Mark sounds exasperated. “This is why you’re calling me in the middle of the night?”
“It’s not the middle of the night, it’s barely midnight. Stop being such an old man.”
There’s no reply but he hears rustling from the other end of the line, followed by sleepy-sounding murmurs and Mark saying “it’s just Jaemin,” before continuing with a soft “go back to sleep, Hyuckie.”
More rustling, and then he can hear someone exhale.
Jaemin smirks, even if no one can see it. “Not your man, huh” he teases, voice smug.
Mark sighs. “Not your business, more like” he bites out tiredly. “Anyway, what are you talking about and why is it so important?”
Jaemin grows somber again, remembering the words from earlier in the evening and the reason he called Mark in a panic in the first place. “Jeno called me baby when we went out for dinner tonight.”
There’s silence for a few seconds, before “but don’t you call him baby all the time?”
Jaemin huffs, frustrated. “Yes! But I’m clingy and needy, it’s very on brand for me!”
“Maybe you’re just rubbing off on him, and it doesn’t mean anything.”
“Do you call Hyuck baby?”
Mark sputters for a few seconds before answering, words tumbling out in a rush. “W-Well-yeah...but it’s different. Also, I called him baby even before...yeah. It’s not even just me that does it, everyone calls him baby - he’s literally the baby of 127. So maybe Jeno meant something like that.”
Jaemin frowns. “But I’m not the maknae of Dream,” he points out. “Jisung’s the baby!”
“Okayyy, so if you don’t think it’s just him being friendly, then are you guys dating?”
Now it’s Jaemin’s turn to sputter, words coming out loud and disbelieving. “I’m pretty sure I would know if we were dating, since I’d be the one dating!”
There’s frantic shushing down the line before Mark speaks again, nearly whispering. “Okay well, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe try saying it back, to see how he reacts. That might give you a clue as to whether it’s just him being overly affectionate, which is rare for Jeno but does happen, even on camera, or if there’s some sort of deeper meaning behind it.”
Jaemin hums, not satisfied with the answer but also not sure what kind of answer he’s looking for. It’s clear that he shouldn’t be keeping Mark on the line anymore though, as he hears more murmuring and the sound of a whine that's suspiciously cut off.
Deciding to end the call before he hears something he definitely shouldn’t and it ends up scarring him for life, he bites out a quick “thanks hyung, I’ll give it a try” before abruptly hanging up and crawling into bed, mind spinning.
Jeno seeks him out the next day, but instead of riding their bikes to the river or to a place to eat like usual they visit a bike shop. Jeno apparently saw a cool post from one of the professional cyclists he follows on his finstagram, and wants a new bike that has more “personality.”
Jaemin wonders why their bikes need to have personality when they already have so many means to express it as idols (hair, clothes, shoes, even the filter they select for their selfies), but he trails after Jeno anyway as Jeno wanders around the shop with childlike excitement.
Jeno picks out a sleek, sturdy-looking mountain bike with thick black wheels and accents of bright yellow. He trades in his current bike for a small discount, but still ends up forking out a (many) pretty penny and Jaemin checks for any sign of regret as Jeno proudly wheels his new prized possession out the door.
“You’re gonna have to ride that, like, a million times to get your money’s worth, Jeno. Your ass is literally going to be so sore” he says, only half joking.
Jeno looks down at the bike. “I don’t mind,” he says, shrugging lightly, adoration clear in his eyes. “My ass is firm from all that clenching we did to stay upright on those hoverboards during our Chewing Gum days. Besides, you’re gonna be just as sore as me.”
Jaemin pauses, looking at Jeno in confusion. “Why would I be sore?”
“Well, I assume you’d be riding along with me. We’re together, in a unit, after all.”
At this point, Jaemin feels like he is definitely missing something. Jeno suddenly referring to their NCT unit is very random, and he doesn’t see what that has to do with bike riding since none of the other members ride with them (Renjun very emphatically said he’d rather peg Lee Soo-man than ride a bike, which, ew , and Chenle and Jisung don’t like to join when Jaemin and Jeno are out together, for some reason).
He opens his mouth to ask, but then thinks back to Mark’s words. That’s two times in two days that Jeno has caught Jaemin off guard with his words, and he still hasn’t solved the mystery from yesterday.
So instead of asking what Jeno means, he clears his throat and says, voice sweet “of course we are, baby, we’re always together.”
He waits, expecting Jeno to duck away or recoil from his words like he’s seen him do so many times before, ever since they were trainees and Jaemin would purposely drop cringey declarations on an unsuspecting Jeno every chance he got just to watch the other’s hilariously embarrassing reactions.
But Jeno doesn’t cringe or flinch or roll his eyes like Jaemin expects. He doesn’t gasp or stutter or choke on his own spit, blushing furiously like he’s done the hundreds of times before.
In fact, he doesn’t say anything at all, and only smiles at Jaemin with even more adoration in his expression than when he’d looked at his new, shiny, outrageously expensive bike a few minutes before.
And Jaemin - Jaemin is at a loss for words again.
Donghyuck unceremoniously throws himself onto Jaemin’s bed, crawling up his blanketed form like a clingy koala before breathing directly into Jaemin’s ear. “Stop hitting up my man in the middle of the night.”
Jaemin groans, trying to bat at Donghyuck’s hot breath and squirming away from the wandering hands now creeping under his blankets. “It was one time, and he said he didn’t have a man.”
“That’s because he doesn’t have me, I have him” Donghyuck argues nonsensically, hugging him tighter.
They wrestle for a few more seconds, Jaemin rolling around in his blanket burrito trying to buck Donghyuck off of him but the older boy just clings on harder, laughing way too loud for this early in the morning.
Donghyuck smiles, smug, as Jaemin collapses back against his pillows in defeat, sighing tiredly and trying to rub the sleep from his eyes. “Anyway, what has you so worked up that you’re hitting us up at night for non-booty call purposes?”
Jaemin squints at him, pouting. “Can’t I just hit you guys up for totally innocent, family-friendly chats between friends?”
“Not when you’ve already got four friends built into the walls here.”
He has a point. Despite Donghyuck’s inability to sit still and general aura of never taking things seriously, he is strangely perceptive with the uncanny ability to read nuances in people. With his unwavering intuition, he’d probably figured out that Mark’s annoyance and jabs at him since their trainee days were just symptoms of repressed affection even before Mark realized it himself.
Jaemin sighs, knowing that the other boy would just figure it out on his own even if he didn’t say anything - there really was no keeping secrets from Donghyuck’s sharp senses. “It’s Jeno, he’s...acting weird.”
Donghyuck’s eyebrows rise. “He’s weird by default, what - is he sick?”
“No! I mean, at least, I don’t think so. But he’s suddenly become all affectionate and it’s weird because that’s my job.”
“ I’m affectionate and so is Taeyong-hyung after two glasses of soju, you ain’t special.”
“Yeah but can confirm he’s totally sober, and not in front of any cameras either! Like I know we usually play it up for the fans but now it’s completely out of the blue.”
Donghyuck pauses, a contemplative expression on his face. “Have the others noticed? Is he like this with them too?”
“I mean - I don’t really know? We haven’t all gone out together in a while.”
Donghyuck opens his mouth to respond, but there’s a knock on Jaemin’s door before it’s swinging open to reveal Jeno - fully dressed in his biking shorts and outdoor sneakers.
He doesn’t even blink at the sight of Donghyuck straddling Jaemin, Jaemin’s hands on his hips in an aborted attempt to throw him off. “Hey Hyuck, didn’t know you were coming over today.”
Donghyuck grins. “We have the day off and Mark said he wanted to surprise the Dreamies, so I came over before him to make breakfast in case he tried to burn down the kitchen again.”
Jeno nods solemnly, as though what Donghyuck just said makes total sense. “That makes total sense. I was hoping to go out though, there’s a new crepe place that’s been getting great reviews online.”
Donghyuck immediately rattles off a name to which Jeno nods, and of course their resident Yelp expert has not only heard of the place but has already visited twice with three different members of 127.
Foodie approval secured, Jeno turns his head to look expectantly at Jaemin.
Jaemin raises his hand to comb through his hair, and promptly gets it stuck in the nest on his head. “Alright, let me just take a shit and we can go.”
He slides a laughing Donghyuck off his lap and makes his way around the room, gathering clothing and some toiletries. As he makes his way out the door he pauses, looking back at Donghyuck still on his bed, now sprawled out comfortably against the pillows with his arms behind his head. “Are you coming with us?”
There’s a knowing gleam in Donghyuck’s eyes. “Nah, I don’t think I can.”
Jaemin furrows his eyebrows and turns to look at Jeno, but Jeno is already gone - he can hear some soft thunks against the wall which he thinks must be Jeno retrieving their bikes off the hanging racks in his room.
So they’re biking there. Jaemin turns back around to offer a ride on his bike, but Donghyuck is waving his hand at him dismissively. “Go, I’ve already been there twice already. And besides, Mark-hyung is arriving soon and you can’t carry all of us.”
Jaemin opens his mouth to respond but Donghyuck hops off the bed and pushes him out of his own room with a final “go, you oblivious walnut!” before slamming the door in Jaemin’s face.
Jaemin huffs, annoyed and confused but mostly annoyed. “Fine! Don’t expect me to bring you back anything” he warns into the door, receiving nothing but stubborn silence, before huffily turning around to make his way down the hall to wash up.
That’s what he gets for being nice.
“Hyunggg you never hang out with us anymore!”
Chenle is hanging upside down off the couch, legs up on the backrest and head perched on Jisung’s shoulder, who’s sitting on the floor below him.
Jaemin scoffs. “What are you talking about? We’re hanging out right now.”
“Nooooo” Chenle whines, kicking his feet in the air. “I mean, like, actually doing something fun.”
“Oh - so you kicking my ass at Mario Kart is not fun enough for you?” Jaemin gestures at the controller in his hand emphatically. “Nice to know I walked all the way out to the living room for this.”
Chenle ignores him. “We never go out together anymore!”
“You guys just went out with Jeno, like, two days ago!”
“Yeah, but not with you” Chenle pouts. “You guys have just been going off to have fun by yourselves.”
“So come with us when we go bike riding, there’s nothing stopping you!”
“Pfft,” Jisung pipes up from the floor, eyes still trained on the TV as he watches his cart careen wildly off the track from Chenle’s onslaught of banana peels. “As if we could come with you when that’s you guy’s thing .”
Jaemin hits a button on his controller, pausing the game to raucous protest. “What’s my thing?”
Chenle rolls his eyes and waves his controller around, nearly whacking Jisung in the face. “If you wanna go on double dates go ask Mark-hyung!”
“What he’s trying to say is,” Jisung interjects again, seeing the confusion on Jaemin’s face, “we want to hang out with you guys but we also don’t wanna be third-wheels. Fourth-wheels. Whatever.”
Jaemin frowns. “Who’s going on double dates?” he asks, “and why would you be wheels?”
Both Chenle and Jisung give him the most impressive unimpressed looks he’s ever seen in his life, which is really saying something because he knows Doyoung. When several seconds pass in silence and they just continue looking at Jaemin flatly, he can feel his shoulders rise and his tone get defensive. “What?”
Jisung sighs, sounding far too weary than he has a right to be for being an actual baby. “ You , hyung. We don’t want to go bike riding with you guys because we don’t want to crash your dates.”
Jaemin reels back, stunned. “Me?” he points at himself, voice disbelieving. “Going out on dates?”
Two sets of blank stares look back at him. Chenle is slowly sliding off the couch, Jisung frozen below him. For a minute, no one says anything.
Then Chenle finally collapses onto the ground, bursting into laughter as he nestles his head into Jisung’s lap. Jisung jerks at the touch but doesn’t move, still staring at Jaemin with wide eyes.
Chenle’s high-pitched dolphin laugh echoes all across the dorm and Jaemin is about to demand just what is so funny when he feels a hand come down lightly onto his shoulder, turning his head to see an amused Renjun hovering above him. “Get up, you’re late for your date.”
There’s the sound of clanging metal and wheels on hardwood, and Jaemin cranes his neck to see Jeno coming down the hall with their bikes, face breaking into a radiant smile when their eyes meet.
Jaemin doesn’t respond but anything he could’ve said would’ve been drowned out by Chenle anyways, who’s now laughing-screaming so hard Jaemin swears the walls are shaking. Jisung tries to smother him with a fluffy couch pillow but as usual - Chenle’s vocals are truly legendary.
They bike to the Han River, stopping at the exact same spot they took pictures at a few days ago. They’ve arrived earlier today, the sun still bright and high in the sky.
Jeno leans against the railing to watch the waves, and Jaemin mirrors the pose to watch Jeno. Several seconds pass in silence as they listen to the water lapping languidly below them, before - “say, are we dating?”
Jeno turns to look at Jaemin, eyebrows raised. “Have been for about a week now, but thanks for noticing, I guess.” He doesn’t look offended, only amused.
Jaemin is offended. “Wait - so I’ve been dating you for a week now and you didn’t tell me?”
“I did tell you, when I asked you out a week ago.”
“When we went bike riding and took selfies, remember?”
Jaemin pauses, thinking hard. “You asked me to go out with you.” There’s an expectant expression on Jeno’s face, and suddenly he feels like he’s been slapped in the face. “Wait - you asked me to go out with you!”
“I did,” Jeno says slowly, with the tone and patience of a teacher talking to a two year old. “And you said, ‘sure,’ which, isn’t the most romantic thing you’ve ever said, but it was like music to my ears.”
“What the hell - I thought you were just asking me out, as in like, to go outside!”
“What did you think we were doing this whole week?”
“Literally what we always do!”
Jeno laughs, ducking his head. “So we were ‘going out’ this whole time but turns out that phrase meant something entirely different to the both of us.”
“Well,” Jaemin drawls, hesitantly. “It doesn’t have to, now.”
Jeno raises his head to look at Jaemin, eyes bright and shining with hope. “You mean…”
Jaemin shrugs, shooting for casual but probably landing somewhere closer to whipped . “I mean, now that I’m finally on the same page, let’s just continue where we left off.”
The answering smile is bright and radiant, Jeno’s eyes scrunched into dual moons of happiness. Even his bangs are blowing lightly in the wind, skin shining in the sun like they’re in some damn shojo manga. “You mean it?”
“Yeah” Jaemin says, feeling himself smile so hard in return that Jeno becomes a blur in front of him.
Which reminds him.
Jaemin fumbles in his pocket, cursing himself for forgetting his Nikon again, and nestles right up against Jeno’s chest. “Let’s take a selfie to commemorate,” he says to Jeno’s confused expression as he finally unearths his phone.
Jeno puts on his “pretty face," raising his hand up for a peace sign. They snap a few quick shots in succession, faces pressed right up against each other. Then, when Jeno lowers his hand and starts to move away, Jaemin quickly turns his head and leans in.
To peck Jeno right on the lips.
Jeno’s eyes are wide, but his lips are soft and Jaemin darts his tongue out to lick tentatively into Jeno’s mouth, relishing the high whine he gets in response. After several seconds standing frozen in place, Jeno finally closes his eyes and wraps his arms around Jaemin’s waist, desperately pulling their bodies closer so that there’s no empty space between them.
Jaemin smiles against Jeno’s lips before he leans back, mouths breaking apart with a tiny pop! Jeno stares back at him with a dazed look on his face, hands still wrapped tightly around Jaemin’s waist.
Jaemin smirks. “And now that we’re both on the same page, why don’t you show me what I’ve been missing in the past week.”
A frantic head nod, punctuated with a small gulp and an even smaller word, uttered so softly it nearly gets lost in the breeze.
Jaemin forwards a few pictures to their social media manager, stopping on the last picture taken today.
It’s Jeno, eyes wide with shock as he stares at a blurry figure to his right.
Jaemin scrolls back to his album and finds the picture from earlier this week, the one where it’s his face in focus with a blurry figure to his left.
He scrolls back to the picture from today and favorites it, then navigates to his favorites folder and looks at the two of them side by side.
Found my next editing project , he thinks, smiling softly down at his phone before putting it to sleep, gently setting it down on the bedside table next to him and sliding under the covers, slowly wrapping his arms around the warm figure curled tightly into his side.
Canada: come get your man
Canada: your man and my man are fighting over uno
Canada: your man just grabbed a frying pan and mine’s got a stool
Canada: now they’re on top of the table
Canada: if you don’t come now one or both of us is gonna lose their man very soon
Nana: so NOW he’s your man